My colleagues at IHME have been running a Statistics reading group for a year or more now, and this quarter I have joined them to carefully read Cameron Davidson-Pilon’s book Probabilistic Programming & Bayesian Methods for Hackers. We are now three sessions in, and it is going really well, IMHO. I’ve been doing some good thinking about what it takes to get started in applied statistics and Bayesian methods.
More thoughts on my recent 12 hours of Software-Carpentry-inspired teaching: one feedback card that I will keep in my rainy-day folder said the learner liked my jokes.
The jokes came in after the second break on the first day, before I figured out that 15 minutes was the right length for the break. I was trying to bring the group back together after only 5 minutes off, and having trouble. “Knock knock,” I said, not too loudly. “Who’s there?” answers some handful of learners who heard me over the racket. Now the room was starting to focus on this. But what did I have to deliver? “Isabel,” I offered, thanks to my 7-year-old neighbor.
Do you know this one? I need to get some Python-relevant material for future courses. Anyway, more of the class was now working with me on it. “Isabel who?” they politely offered. “Is a bell necessary on a bicycle?” Definitely a winner… you never know what will go over until you try it on stage.
I’ve recently completed 12 hours of teaching Introduction to Python and SQL for an audience of new Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) staff and fellows. SWC is a gem! (I have been thinking this for a while.)
In retrospect, what worked and what might I do differently next time?
Some SWC mechanics that worked well: Live coding, Hands-on exercises, Sticky notes, Jupyter notebooks, and friendly teaching assistants.
Some things to change: Remember to give the big-picture framing for each section, Do more explanation of solutions after hands-on exercises, Share the syllabus ahead of time, and emphasize that this is *introduction* material.
Some changes that I made mid-stream: longer breaks (15 minutes every hour or so), connect the examples to IHME-specific domains.
I also did not use an etherpad until we got through Creating Functions (Section 6 in the Python Inflammation Lession). That might have been too much typing in the first two sessions, and it was definitely appreciated.
This summer my kids got a gift of a somewhat boring board game, where players were charged with tracing through a jumble of lines to find out what creature got to eat what dessert. The name escapes me now, and I escaped taking the game home, too.
I’ve got a fun little viz that I need to demo for Important People (IP) in early March [editor’s note: still not done… that deadline was highly optimistic!]. How to do it?
In Python? Sure. In a Jupyter notebook? Maybe. With Matplotlib? Probably not… at least I better have a look at the state of the alternatives.
Did I mention that it is essential for this viz to be *interactive*? It needs to allow the Important People to explore the predictions of some ML model, or at least allow me to explore them while they call out how to explore.
Years ago, I attempted to designate a particular plot the “hello, world” of data viz. Remember that? I think we should extend it to a hello world of interactive data viz. Maybe just choosing the number of digits is enough. Or should it follow the visual information seeking mantra? But “hello, world” cannot be too complicated.